Swim England chief fears many more pools will not reopen after second lockdown

Two hundred pools have closed permanently because of the coronavirus pandemic this year and the chief executive of Swim England fears an “awful lot more” might be forced to follow suit amid a second national lockdown.

While elite sport has been given the green light to continue, Jane Nickerson has queried why swimming pools are among a number of leisure facilities in England that have been told to shut down for four weeks from Thursday.

Nickerson pointed out the physical and psychological benefits of swimming, which according to a report saves the NHS and social care system £357million per year, adding pools do not carry a high risk of transmission.

She told the PA news agency: “We’ve proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that indoor leisure and swimming pools have a very low transmission of this virus and are safe places for people to go and exercise.

“To just slam the door shut again now, my concern is that many pools won’t reopen and certainly I believe a lot won’t reopen now before Christmas.

“We’ve lost 200 swimming pools already following the first lockdown, I think an awful lot more can follow suit.

“We know that swimming is immensely valuable to the health of the nation. Swimming is an activity you can do from cradle to grave and whether you have mobility on land or not.

“We just really do not understand this. This has slammed the door on a lot of vulnerable people who have now got nothing.

“On dark nights, where do you go as a single person to exercise at 6-7pm at night now? Do you run round dark roads and lanes on your own?

“Swimming has masses and masses of great impact on your mental health. If the Government is really, really keen on keeping people healthy in order to combat COVID, should they get it, slamming the door shut on swimming pools and indoor leisure just seems completely the wrong thing to do to me.”

While some sectors forced to close can turn off the lights and lock the doors, Nickerson mentioned that is not a possibility with swimming pools, which have to be strictly maintained.

She said: “You’ve got to decommission a pool, you’ve got to keep some element of activity in the water to keep it safe and fresh. When you reopen it’s about backwashing and bringing it back up to temperature and things like that.

“It costs a lot of money. It costs more money to keep decommissioning and commissioning pools than it does to keep them open in a way.

“We do feel like the forgotten sector. It just hasn’t been supported. To me, it’s an essential service and that’s what I’m fighting for. It should be defended as such and kept open as such.”